PHILADELPHIA -- It's a case that has been examined and re-examined for more than two decades: the killing of a white police officer by a former Black Panther.
Mumia Abu-Jamal's fatal shooting of Daniel Faulkner has become one of the world's most prominent death-row cases. But throughout 26 years of litigation, one part of the story has been largely overshadowed.
The officer's widow, Maureen Faulk-ner, gives her side in "Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain and Injustice" (Lyons/Globe Pequot), a book written with political pundit and conservative radio talk-show host Michael Smerconish.
"It's been a therapy for me. It really has. The truth is now on paper on what happened the night Danny was murdered," Faulkner said in a recent interview.
The memoir chronicles Faulkner's attempt to rebuild her life as she fights Abu-Jamal's numerous appeals, travels the country to debunk what she calls myths about the case and strives to ensure that her husband is not forgotten.
Daniel Faulkner was a 25-year-old newlywed when he was gunned down Dec. 9, 1981. A jury concluded that Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner several times after seeing the officer scuffle with Abu-Jamal's brother, who had been pulled over in downtown Philadelphia. The verdict has withstood numerous appeals.
But Abu-Jamal, a onetime journalist, has garnered worldwide support for claims that he was the victim of a biased U.S. justice system.
His message has resonated particularly on college campuses and in the movie and music industries -- actors Mike Farrell and Tim Robbins were among dozens of luminaries who used a New York Times ad to advocate for a new trial, and the Beastie Boys played a concert to raise money for Abu-Jamal's defense fund.
Over the years, Abu-Jamal has challenged the predominantly white makeup of the jury, instructions given to jurors and the statements of eyewitnesses. He has also alleged ineffective counsel, racism by the trial judge and that another man confessed to the crime.
In 2001 a federal judge upheld Abu-Jamal's conviction but overturned his death sentence because of flawed jury instructions. Prosecutors are now trying to get the sentence reinstated, while Abu-Jamal, who remains incarcerated at the state prison in Waynesburg, Pa., continues to fight for a new trial. He has written several books and does frequent radio commentaries for the Prison Radio project.
Smerconish, who also is a lawyer and newspaper columnist, said he read the entire 5,000-page case file before offering to help Faulkner tell her story. In an interview, he talked admiringly of what he called her David vs. Goliath odyssey to fight the "Free Mumia" movement.
Like the time she called Continental Airlines to berate the company for allowing an Abu-Jamal benefit concert to be held at Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey. Or the time she hired a plane to fly around the offices of Addison-Wesley, the company that published Abu-Jamal's book, "Live From Death Row." The plane towed a banner that said, "ADDISON-WESLEY SUPPORTS COP KILLER."
"Every instance where she's sort of outmanned and outgunned and outfunded, somehow she digs deep and she gets it done," Smerconish said.
Neither Abu-Jamal nor his brother has ever spoken about what happened that night. The book emphasizes that point, noting that in 26 years, Abu-Jamal has only proclaimed his innocence. His brother has said that he had nothing to do with the murder.
Faulkner writes of the frustration and anger at hearing Abu-Jamal's voice in radio commentary, seeing pro-Abu-Jamal graffiti on a southern California freeway, and running into someone in a "Free Mumia" T-shirt at the gas station.
Faulkner asked that young man what he knew about the case. When he responded that Abu-Jamal was a political prisoner who had been railroaded, Faulkner identified herself as the victim's widow.
"He looked at me with a shocked look on his face," Faulkner recalled. She said she told him that he was misinformed about the case, and offered to send him the trial transcripts. "He said, 'No, that's OK,' and he hopped in his car and he drove away."
That is why, Faulkner said, she still needed to write a book 26 years later.
All book proceeds, she said, will benefit the Justice for Daniel Faulkner Foundation, which supports the children of Philadelphia murder victims.